THE TEN AT 10:
1. Twice this decade UGA has dismissed a player with for some sort of inappropriate interaction with a female and twice those individuals ended up playing for other SEC teams. In the case of former quarterback Zach Mettenberger, it worked out OK for both player and team (LSU). But for Jonathan Taylor and Alabama, not so much.
Taylor was dismissed from Alabama in March after he stood accused a second time of domestic violence. That offense – even though later withdrawn by his accuser — earned him a dismissal from the university, which had made special exceptions for his admission based on felony charges back in Athens. Taylor will face those charges next month.
Georgia is sponsoring a proposal at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin this week that would prevent players with circumstances like Taylor’s from transferring to other SEC schools in the future. According to UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity, anyone accused of “serious misconduct,” ie: sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking or any forms of physical violence, would not be considered for transfer.
McGarity told the Athens Banner-Herald that he hopes the proposal will be taken under consideration in Destin this week to help “avoid situations in the future … for the integrity of the SEC.”
Hard to imagine that not being adopted.
2. Of course, cost of attendance will likely dominate the discussions at this year’s SEC Meeting. Richt has been very outspoken about it and did a pretty good job of explaining both the concept and the Bulldogs’ stance on it when he addressed fans at a UGA Days event in Charlotte last week.
“We’re all for our student-athletes having some more money in their pocket as they go through their college experience,” Richt said. “The term cost-of-attendance came up as a way to get that to them without paying the athletes, so to speak. When we first tried it (in 2012), it was a $2,000 stipend across the board, NCAA-wide. It kind of made sense. Not everybody was excited about it but I know we were and I know our league was excited about it. But then somewhere along the way it became too much of a financial burden for some of schools that couldn’t afford it. So the NCAA says, ‘maybe we moved a little too fast. Let’s not do it.’
“Then the Power 5 came together and said ‘let’s do it.’ So most of us were thinking it’s going to be very similar to the first time it was implemented. But as things turned out, everybody’s cost of attendance is different. Everybody probably computes it a little different; I don’t think anybody is the same exactly. So because of that, there is a discrepancy in how much different schools have to give across America and even within our league. Some schools are in the $6,000 range and ours, I think, is like $3,200 for in-state and $3,700 for out of state. So there’s a big difference there.”
Richt was asked if he thought that might create a recruiting advantage for the schools paying more. He did not deny it.
“That might mean something to a young man,” Richt said. “What a lot of them do, quite frankly, is just take their Pell money and give it to their mom to help them survive sometimes. I think that (differential) could be used against us at times. But I know President (Jere) Morehead has done a great job of getting the number even to that point. And I know at the SEC meetings there’s going to be a lot of discussion about it. We hope we can make it more equitable in that way. No one wants it to be a recruiting disadvantage.
“I’m sure the teams at the top of the pack are excited about it and bragging about how high theirs is. It could become a factor; I hope it doesn’t become a factor. I hope they choose Georgia because they love Georgia and want to be there. But if you’re really, really close and have another $2,700 a year compared to over here, it might be enough to sway somebody. … It could happen.”
3. You might have noticed a new byline attached to the UGA Blog earlier today on AJC.com. I’m happy and pleased to announce that Seth Emerson, formerly of the Macon Telegraph and McClatchy Newspapers and a friend of mine, has joined me in providing coverage of Georgia athletics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Cox Media Group.
Seth’s first day on the job is actually today and he hit the ground running. He’s in Destin with Tim Tucker covering the annual SEC Spring Meetings at the Sandestin Hilton Beach Resort. Seth will be keeping close tabs on the Georgia contingent in Destin while Tim will be following the many big-picture topics issues being discussed down there this year.
As the news of Emerson’s hiring has slowly circulated, a lot of people have asked me what this means. What it means is that you’re going to see the most comprehensive coverage of UGA athletics anywhere. And it goes beyond having the two of us full-time on the Georgia beat. Our whole staff will be devoting time, energy and resources to give you unmatched coverage of the Bulldogs.
4. One of the first things Seth is going to sink his teeth into in Destin is Georgia’s long-awaited construction of an indoor practice facility, or the Indoor Athletic Facility (IAF), as the Bulldogs prefer to call it.
The IAF was a major item on the agenda at UGA’s Athletic Board’s annual end-of-year retreat this past week in St. Simons. And while the Bulldogs didn’t unveil a lot of details at that gathering, word is Georgia is indeed going all out to make it the best of its kind in the SEC. Did you happen to catch Coach Richt’s tweet about it?
I talked to one board member who guesses that the cost will be closer to $40 million than the widely referenced $30 million when it’s all said and done. We’ll see.
What happened to the old plan, you may ask? I’m hearing that politics got involved.
UGA had taken its idea of razing the Hoke Smith Annex and building next to Stegeman Coliseum to the Board of Regents to get its nod of approval and negotiate any real estate hurdles. But that’s not where the plan got tripped up.
Apparently what started out amicably enough with the current tenants of the Hoke Smith Annex – primarily the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science’s Extension Service — eventually got into one of those what-else-can-you-do-for-me deals and Athletics simply didn’t want to play. Besides, Richt had long been a proponent of having the facility only if it could be built within the current footprint of the Butts-Mehre complex. Right-hand man Jeremy Pruitt echoed that sentiment last fall.
The bottom line is Richt apparently finally is going to get a Taj Mahal of an indoor facility right in the precise location where it was proposed to be built 17 years ago when Jim Donnan was head coach.
Now that’s progress!
5. What am I doing while Seth and Tim are at the SEC Meetings, you may ask? Well, I haven’t been sitting around idle, I’ll have you know.
I’ve been traveling. A lot. If you follow me on Twitter @ChipTowersAJC you may have noticed that I’ve been visiting a lot of Georgia’s 2015 signees. Well, that hasn’t been just to say “hi” and introduce myself. I’ve been getting to know these guys well and I will be telling their stories in a series that will roll out next month.
This year, the “Dog Days of Summer” is going to mean something entirely different!
6. Hey, Chris Kirk, what are you going to do with the $1.17 million you received for winning the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth this past weekend?
“We’re closing on a new house in Athens next Wednesday,” Kirk said in his post-tournament press conference Sunday. “My wife and two sons and I wanted to be close to the University of Georgia where we both went to school … Thankfully the house costs a lot less than what that check was for so I think I’ll be all right.”
Kirk shot a final-round 66 and holed a seven-foot par putt on the 18th hole to hold off Jordan Speith, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Bohn by a stroke.
Ever the family man, here’s how Kirk celebrated the victory after having to wait for Ian Poulter to complete the last two holes:
7. Kirk’s victory continued his strong year of play and, of course, kept Bulldogs in the limelight on the Tour. Kirk’s win gives him $2.25 million for the season and moves him up to 14th in the FedEx Cup rankings and 17th in the World Rankings.
Also having a good week in Fort Worth were UGA alums Kevin Kisner and Brian Harman. Kisner, who has had runner-up finishes in playoffs twice this year, shot 67 on Sunday to finish in a tie for fifth at 10-under. He carded a sub-70 final round for the third time in his last five tournaments. Harman also finished in the Top 10 at 9-under.
8. Georgia has what it believes another potential PGA Tour great coming through in Lee McCoy. The junior from Clarkesville set a school record this year when he won three individual titles in a row earlier this season and he tied Kirk’s school record by winning four tournaments overall. He’ll lead the Bulldogs in their bid for a third national title as that tee it up in the NCAA Championships this week in Bradenton, Fla.
The question now is whether McCoy will come back to Georgia for his senior season or go ahead and give play-for-pay a shot.
“People have been asking me that a lot lately,” McCoy told me recently. “I’ve been really honest with people about it and I’ve been honest with Haacker (coach Chris Haack) about what I’m planning on doing. As of right now I’m not entirely sure. I’m leaning toward coming back to school. But if it’s a situation for me best to turn pro, then I’m going to do it. And if it’s best for me to be pro, Coach Haack’s going to be 100 percent behind me.”
Winning the NCAA team or individual titles could certainly influence that decision. But either way he plans to enter the summer as an amateur. Immediately after the championships he will join the U.S. Palmer Cup team in the annual Ryder Cup-style competition against a team from Europe. They will face off June 12-14 at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois.
9. Georgia’s men’s tennis season came to a kind of sudden and disappointing end in the NCAA Tennis Championships in Waco this past weekend as the Bulldogs’ top-seeded doubles team of Austin Smith and Ben Wagland was eliminated in the quarterfinals on Saturday. They dropped a 6-2, 6-3 match to Texas Tech’s Hugo Dojas and Felipe Soares to end the year 18-4.
That wrapped up Georgia’s relatively quiet presence in the tennis championships this year. The Bulldogs were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the team competition against No. 1-ranked Oklahoma. The six-time national champions finished 24-5 after entering the tournament as the No. 8 seed.
Georgia did win its 38th SEC championship this season and has most of its team coming back next year.
“They had a great year and we have a great future coming up next,” coach Manuel Diaz said. “I know they wanted to win this tournament, but it didn’t go our way today. Texas Tech really controlled play. They are a great team.”
10. Georgia’s women’s tennis team also had its season end in the NCAA Championships last week after an impressive run to the semifinals. And the Bulldogs’ softball team also packed it in after losing to Michigan in two games in the NCAA Ann Arbor Super Regional last week.
So that leaves it up to the UGA track and field teams to make sure this is not one of the more disappointing overall year in athletics for the Bulldogs. They certainly have a chance. Georgia sent 31 athletes to the NCAA prelims and have at least an outside shot of winning the women’s title.